WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
13 Mar 2013 | Video

An Ongoing Search for Justice and Security in Colombia’s Afrodescendent Communities


WOLA, AfroColombia NY, AFRODES USA, AFRODES Colombia, Colombia Land Rights Monitor, Global Rights, LAWGEF, PCN International, Peace Brigades International, TransAfrica, USOC, and Witness for Peace invite you view this event featuring:

Marcos Velázquez
Self-Determination, Life and Dignity Community (CAVIDA), Cacarica, Chocó

Danelly Estupiñan
Black Communities Process (Proceso de Comunidades Negras, PCN), Buenaventura

Pedro Cortés
National Association for Internally Displaced Afro-Colombians (Asociación Nacional de Afrocolombianos Desplazados, AFRODES) USA

Liliana Ávila
Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace (Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz, CIJP)

The event was held on Thursday, March 14, 2013 from  12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Washington Office on Latin America
1666 Connecticut Ave NW
4th Floor Conference Room

Please see above for the event video in Spanish only.

As violence against human rights defenders and local communities continues in Colombia, distinguished Afro-Colombian leaders will offer their first-hand analyses of past developments and continued challenges facing the communities of Colombia’s Cacarica River Basin in northwestern Chocó. The communities have fought for their right to self-determination and collective land rights after being forcibly displaced in 1997 due paramilitary abuses and military operations.

After three years of living in squalor and being subjected to numerous abuses in the port city of Turbo, a group of 1,200 Afro-Colombians encompassing 23 communities decided to form the Self-Determination, Life and Dignity Community (CAVIDA). Three years later, they returned to their lands. Since then, these communities have non-violently confronted further displacement by the armed actors operating in the area and illegal encroachment of wood and banana companies in their territories.

In March 2013, members of the CAVIDA community testified before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) in Costa Rica in the landmark Marino López et al. (Operation Genesis) case. Marcos Velázquez has been subjected to death threats, intimidation, and defamation campaigns due to his activism seeking justice for the Afro-Colombian victims of Operation Genesis and for respect of Afro-Colombian collective land rights and self-determination. Liliana Ávila, legal counsel in the Operation Genesis case, will also present.

Meanwhile, in Buenaventura, Colombia, the security situation has significantly deteriorated due to fighting between illegal armed groups linked to narco-trafficking. In October 2012 alone, the Catholic Church reports that over 30 people were murdered, hundreds displaced and at least 35 shootouts took place in civilian areas. In January 2013, the Bishop of Buenaventura called for an investigation by national authorities of the mass grave of dismembered bodies. Women in particular have become the targets of horrific sexual and violent attacks by the illegal armed groups. Faced with this grim scenario, brave leader, Danelly Estupiñan, of the Black Communities Process (Proceso de Comunidades Negras, PCN), is working to seek justice for atrocities and to prevent further violence.

Following the murder of AFRODES activist Miller Angulo in Tumaco on December 1, 2012, AFRODES organized a seminal protest at an event with Vice President Garzón calling on Colombia to take action to protect Afro-Colombian leaders facing grave security risks. AFRODES’s advocacy, accompanied by activists in the United States, has led Colombia’s National Protection Unit (Unidad Nacional de Protección, UNP) to develop a pilot collective protection project with AFRODES for Afro-Colombian leaders in the cities of Cartagena, Quibdó, Buenaventura, Tumaco, Soacha, and Cali. With the February 23, 2013, murder of Demetrio López of the Community Council of la Caucana and further attacks against AFRODES members, security remains a high concern for this community. Pedro Cortes, an AFRODES USA member and a Fulbright PhD student at Howard University, will present on AFRODES’s efforts to address this problem.